INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A bill that would stiffen penalties for those caught smuggling cell phones into Indiana prisons is one step closer to becoming law. It follows an I-Team 8 investigation that showed inmates reaching out from behind bars to commit new crimes using cell phones.
Rep. Tom Dermody (R-LaPorte) introduced House Bill 1256 last month, which would require a court to impose a fine of at least $500 but not more than $10,000 on anyone convicted of trafficking a cell phone or other wireless communications device to an inmate. That fine would be in addition to a “class C felony” prison sentence of up to 8 years.
In addition, anyone who knowingly or intentionally possesses a cell phone while incarcerated could be charged with a “class A misdemeanor,” which could get an inmate an additional year behind bars. Currently, inmates generally are only sanctioned to a loss of "good behavior time" when caught with contraband.
The measure passed the Indiana House by a 98-0 vote Tuesday and now moves to the Senate.
Dermody is pushing for another solution as well that would blocking cell phone signals altogether in prisons by using jamming devices. The FCC has rejected plans for prisons across the country to use such devices, saying they violate the Communications Act of 1934.
A Congressional panel is set to debate a bill that would relax those restrictions later this month.
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